Dig Into Site Search For A Goldmine Of Data

Appeared in MediaPost, March 24, 2009:

Site search tools -- those oblong boxes on Web sites that let visitors find content specific to keyword queries -- offer a wealth of information, according to Aaron Goldman, consultant at Resolution Media.

Goldman, who moderated the Monday panel titled "Content Owners: Using On-Site Search to Drive Revenue" at OMMA Global Hollywood, said the search tools can help drive substantial revenue. Participating panelists agreed that their respective initiatives, although different, have helped to increase traffic from Web search engines like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Goldman notes that SLI Systems reveals that 87% of retailers use site search, but the tool isn't just for retailers. Any content publisher can take advantage of site search to help visitors access their content, and ultimately, drive profit.

Christopher Knoch, principal SEM consultant at Omniture, said 57% of users admit they are highly likely to use a site search tool. On average, 50% who use a site search tool make a purchase or download information. He suggests that marketers can use metrics gained from the company's site search tool to improve campaigns. "The data coming from search can provide a powerful merchandising tool," he said. "Not many companies take into account orders, inventory and season metrics."

Marketers also can assign business rules to keywords to spotlight promotions and related content that can help cross-sell products and services. From the data, they also can determine the pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) keywords driving site search keywords.

At Allrecipes.com, VP of Brand Marketing Esmee Williams relies on site search for prioritizing what gets published online such as recipes and tips. Editors monitor content based on site searches, while others use the data to design the products. A weekly report identifies the shift in search terms to pinpoint trends. "We're looking at the data to find different ways to target ads by consumer segments," she said. "We also are working on the ability to map content based on site searches."

Karen Brophy, VP of product management at Tribune Interactive, said although the Tribune's system is a little less sophisticated then Allrecipes.com's, it does know that between 30% and 40% of the traffic on the site comes from search engines Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others. And about 1.5 million site searches are conducted daily at latimes.com.

One of the challenges to implement site search at latimes.com, which relies on the Google Search Appliance, was getting the buy-in from executives footing the bill for resources to make improvements, Brophy said. The system often needs "tweaks" to get the best performance, but funds are not always readily available.

Knoch offered some advice on getting executive buy-in for site search tools. He suggested getting attention with numbers. Determine the number of unique visitors and try to quantify the revenue lift by projecting the increase that a new site search tool could provide.


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